Iraq and roll: The Jewish sounds of Bollywood

The soft Oud of the ring is impossible to overlook in the soundtrack of Yahudi, Bollywood’s unlikely story that Bimal Roy performed in 1958 on the persecution of the Jews in ancient Rome.

The background score, composed by Shankar and Jaikishan, has a Middle Eastern country loosely and feel that the plot revolves and turns, often belongs to the versatile instrument Arabian chains to indicate swirling emotions.

As the murders are controlled, Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari’s betrayals fall, sobs, sighs and sings to improve the mood on the screen. He could easily have descended on the kitsch. Perhaps the reason was not that the man who broke the strings, Isaac David knew the music of the Middle East.

David was a Jew himself and in the early years of the last century, he polished his art of playing with a game in Mumbai that recorded four discs of songs for the Hebrew label Iraqi Jews.

Some of these songs can be heard in a collection called Shir Hodu: Beans 30s Song Bombay, which offers a fascinating reminder of the city’s cosmopolitan heritage.

Published in 2009, the 15-track album files were rigorously selected by Sara Manasseh, a native Iraqi Jewish ethnomusicologist who now lives in London.

During the 1930s, Mumbai was a “musical kaleidoscope,” Manasses told his line of notes and coins including music and singing Jewish prayers in Hebrew.

In 2012, Manasés explains the historical and theoretical context of this music in a book entitled Shbahoth – Songs of Praise in the Jewish tradition of Babylon: from Baghdad to Bombay in London.

Mumbai has long housed three separate Jewish groups. The greater the Bene Israel, who believe that their ancestors were shipwrecked on the coast of Alibaug in 175 BC. 19th century, Iraqi Jewish traders – Manasese ancestors – flee from religious persecution began to move in the commercial capital.

This group became the Baghdad. In the 1930s, a small number of Jews from Cochin, whose ancestors came to Kerala in the tenth century BC. C., also lived in Mumbai.

Bene Israel and the Baghdads had vibrant musical traditions in the 1930s Bene Israel repertoire was the Marathi, drawing their themes from Psalms and other biblical sources.

Among the most important musicians in the community, Nathan Solomon Satamkar, a silent film actor who had established two music schools to provide instruction in instruments such as sitar and dilruba Manasés said.

The ears of Mumbai, the music of Baghdad have seemed much more exotic. Shir Hodu includes Museri Silman pieces, the group included “dancers balancing the candlesticks on the head,” Manasés told an e-mail interview.

He was also popular Mnashi Abu Moshe, a blind singer who sometimes entertained in the parties launched by the grandparents of Manasés. “He was going to sing popular Arab songs from Baghdad, and also improvise songs about people who were at the party,” Manasés said. “My grandmother would sit next to him and tell him he was there.”

Soon, some of these Jewish subjects were open to wider audiences. Among them was Habibi, who became Jata Hai Kahaan Diwaane in the CID film of 1956. (Listen now).

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